Those who have allergies – who know cleaning is important to keep sneezing and watery, itchy eyes at bay – can have their mission sabotaged if cleaning products create extra irritation.
Scientists are finding that antibacterial ingredients such as triclosan (found in many consumer products such as bar, liquid and foaming soaps, underarm deodorants, toothpastes, mouthwashes, shampoos, cosmetics, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, facial tissues, and antiseptics for wound care) could be contributing to antimicrobial resistance (ie antibiotic-resistant bacteria). Many experts say antibacterial products don’t do much for us anyway, as people don’t usually leave the products on surfaces long enough to kill bacteria, and besides, most infectious diseases are caused by viruses. Pediatric societies have called for parents to stop buying antibacterial products amidst fears they could adversely affect a baby’s immune system.
Utilized correctly, green cleaning can help to reduce many of these health and environmental hazards:
- Air pollution
- Bioaccumulation of toxic substances in plants and animals
- Endocrine disruption in wildlife, reducing the ability to reproduce
- Ozone Depletion
- Water Pollution
Eco-friendly Cleaning Ingredients and Hints
- Pure soap (Castile) and vegetable oil-based soaps: cleans everything, and biodegrades completely!
- Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate): a non-toxic, all-purpose cleaner. Cleans, removes stains, deodorizes, and softens fabrics.
- Borax (sodium borate): a natural mineral that kills bacteria and mold. As an alternative to bleach, it deodorizes, removes stains and boosts the cleaning power of soap. Note that borax can be toxic to children and pets: keep these and other toxic products out of their reach, and inform other household members of the whereabouts and purpose of any borax and boric acid in the house.
- Cornstarch: starches clothes, absorbs oil and grease.
- Herbs and essential oils: for disinfecting and fragrance.
- Lavender and Tee Tree oils: natural antiseptics which fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
- Lemon juice: cuts through grease and removes perspiration and other stains from clothing. This is a good bleach alternative.
- Salt (sodium chloride): An abrasive.
- Toothpaste: a mild abrasive.
- White Vinegar (acetic acid): mild disinfectant, cuts grease, removes stains and is an excellent water softener.
- Washing Soda (sodium carbonate): cleans clothes, softens water, cuts grease and disinfects. Increases the cleaning power of soap.
- Grapefruit seed extract: a natural antiseptic.
- Vodka: a natural disinfectant!
General Cleaning Hints
- To save time and money, make your cleaners in advance and buy the ingredients in bulk for cost savings and to avoid excess packaging. Make large batches of the recipes (easily available on Google) and store them in reusable airtight plastic containers and spray bottles.
- Label all of your ingredients and keep them out of reach of children. While most of these all natural cleaners are not poisonous, some can be harmful or even fatal if swallowed by children or pets.
- Add your favourite essential oils or herbs to any of these formulas for fragrance.
Natural air fresheners and deodorizers
- Place cloves, cinnamon sticks, allspice or other favourite scented spice in a pot of water, then simmer for 1-2 hours.Put a few slices of leftover orange or lemon rinds in a pot of water, simmer for 1-2 hours.
- Place baking soda in an open container of your choice. Good for closets, refrigerators and other small enclosed spaces.
- 2-3 slices of white bread absorbs refrigerator odours.
- Place lemon slices in an open bowl in the kitchen.
- Lemon and baking soda spray: Dissolve baking soda in 2 cups hot water, add lemon juice, pour into spray bottle, spray into air as air freshener.
- Vinegar or charcoal in a cup or bowl removes odours from a room.
- Light a match for a few moments or burn a candle (scented or unscented). The flame from either will “eat-up” bad smelling gases in the air.
- Pour vanilla extract into a shallow dish and set in an out-of-the-way place.
- Spin-Fresh Bathroom Deodorizer: add a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil to the inside of the cardboard toilet tissue roll. With each turn, fragrance is released into the room.
All Purpose Cleaners
- Vinegar and Salt. Mix together for a good surface cleaner.
- Baking soda on a damp sponge. Baking soda cleans and deodorizes all kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
- For a general, all-purpose cleaner, try a paste made from baking soda and water or mix salt and water with a little vinegar.
- 3 tbsp. vinegar, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil based liquid soap, 2 cups hot water. Mix ingredients in spray bottle or bucket. Apply and wipe clean.
- Regular cleaning with plain soap and hot water will kill some bacteria.Borax has long been recognized for its disinfectant and deodorizing properties. Mix 1/2 cup Borax into 1 gallon hot water or undiluted vinegar and clean with this solution.
- Mix a half-cup of borax with 1 gallon hot water. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary or lavender. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and cool. Or add essential fragrant oils instead of fresh herbs. Store in a plastic spray bottle.
- 2 tablespoons borax, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 cups hot water. Combine the borax and lemon juice with the water in a spray bottle. Use as you would any commercial all-purpose cleaner.
CAUTION: Boric Acid and borax can be toxic to children and pets, keep well out of their reach and inform other household members of the whereabouts and purpose of the borax and boric acid dough and/or powders. Ammonia should also be used with caution. Always refer to safety information and precautions on the package.
- 1/2 cup vinegar or lemon juice, 2 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil based soap (such as Murphy’s Oil Soap).
- Baking Soda or Dry Table Salt. These are mild abrasives and can be used as an alternative to chlorine scouring powders. Put either baking soda or salt on a sponge or the surface, scour and rinse.
- Baking Soda and Vinegar: Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, then squirt with vinegar and scour with a toilet brush. Cleans and deodorizes.
- Denture tablets are an excellent substitute for toilet cleaner. Drop two tablets into the bowl and clean as you would with toilet cleaner.
- For slow drains, use this drain cleaner once a week to keep drains fresh and clog-free.
1/2 cup baking soda
1 cup white vinegar
1 gallon boiling water
- Pour baking soda down drain/disposal, followed by vinegar. Allow the mixture to foam for several minutes before flushing the drain with boiling water.
Tub And Tile Cleaners
- Baking Soda. Sprinkle baking soda like you would scouring powder. Rub with a damp sponge. Rinse thoroughly.
Vinegar removes most dirt without scrubbing and doesn’t leave a film. Use 1/4 cup (or more) vinegar to 1 gallon water.
- Baking Soda. To clean grout, put 3 cups baking soda into a medium-sized bowl and add 1 cup warm water. Mix into a smooth paste and scrub into grout with a sponge or toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly and dispose of leftover paste when finished.
- To clean stainless steel, chrome, fibreglass, ceramic, porcelain or enamel fixtures, dissolve 2 tbsp baking soda in 1 qt of water. Wipe on fixtures, then rinse.
- Vinegar and Paper Towels. Hard lime deposits around faucets can be softened for easy removal by covering the deposits with vinegar-soaked paper towels. Leave the paper towels on for about one hour before cleaning. Leaves chrome clean and shiny.
Rust Stain and Hard Water Deposit Remover
- Apply full-strength vinegar or lemon juice and let stand until spot disappears, then rinse. Repeat if necessary.
- The first step is prevention. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on the floor of the oven, underneath but not touching the heating element.
- Clean up the spill as soon as it occurs.
- While the oven is still warm, sprinkle salt or baking soda on the spill. If the spill is completely dry, wet the spill lightly before sprinkling on salt. When the oven cools, scrape away the spill and wash the area clean.
- Baking soda, water; salt; vegetable oil-based liquid soap. Sprinkle water on oven bottom. Cover with baking soda. Let sit overnight. Wipe off and apply liquid soap with scouring pad. Rinse.
Retard grease build-up in your oven by dampening your cleaning rag in vinegar and water before wiping out your oven.
- Sprinkle/spray water followed by a layer of baking soda. Rub gently with a very fine steel wool pad for tough spots. Wipe off scum with dry paper towels or sponge. Rinse well and wipe dry
Counter Tops/Kitchen Surfaces
- Fragrant Kitchen Rinse: use any of the following essential oils, alone or in a combination pleasing to you. Add 4 drops of oil to each pint of water. Pour into a spray bottle, store away cool dark place. Use as a final rinse after cleaning kitchen surfaces.
Pots and Pans
- Burned, and crusted on foods; Soak or boil a solution of 2 tbs. baking soda per qt of water in each pan.
- Let stand until particles are loosened, then wash as usual.
- Use a mild or moderate abrasive if necessary.
- To clean a greasy pan easily, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of baking soda to the water in which it is soaking.
Copper pan cleaner
- Sprinkle surface of pans with coarse salt. Rub salt into stains with the cut half of a fresh lemon.
Baking Dishes – Enamel, Ceramic or Glass
- Soak in hot soapy water, then scour with salt or baking soda and rinse thoroughly.
Spot-free Dishwasher Rinse
- Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse compartment of your automatic dishwasher.
- Wash dishes as usual.
- To remove coffee stains from cups or counters, rub with baking soda paste.
- To eliminate garbage disposal odours and clean and sharpen blades, grind used lemon and/or orange rinds until pulverized.
Kitchen Safety: Fire
- Emergency fire extinguisher: if a greasy pan catches on fire, turn the heat off and try to cover the pan.
- Sprinkle powdered baking soda over the fire.
- An oven fire is easily extinguished by closing the door after shutting off the heat.
Floor and Furniture Cleaners
- A great non-toxic carpet stain remover is club soda. Soak spot immediately with soda and blot until the stain is gone.
- Pet Urine on Carpets: Dab area with towelling to absorb as much as possible, wash spot with liquid dish detergent, and rinse with 1/2 cup vinegar diluted in 1 qt warm water. Lay towels or paper towels over the spot and weight down to absorb excess moisture. Let stand 4 to 6 hours, then remove towelling, brush up nap and allow to dry completely. Use an electric fan to speed drying.
- Red wine stains can be removed from carpet by rubbing baking soda in and vacuuming.
- To remove grease spots from carpets, first sop up the liquid with a sponge, then rub a liberal amount of baking soda or cornstarch into the spot. Let it absorb overnight. Next day, remove the excess and vacuum the area.
- Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on carpets before vacuuming for a natural rug deodorizer.
Herbal Carpet Freshener
- 1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup lavender flowers
Crush the lavender flowers to release their scent. Mix well with baking soda and sprinkle liberally on carpets. Vacuum after 30 minutes.
Furniture Polish and Scratch Covers
- This polish should to be made fresh each time you use it.
- 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon water
- Extract the juice from the lemon. Mix with oil and water.
- Apply a thin coat on your wood surface and let sit for five minutes. Use a soft cloth to buff to a deep shine.
- Use 3 parts light mineral oil, 1 part olive oil, and a drop of lemon juice.
- Use a little olive or lemon oil and some beeswax.
- Hide wood scratches by rubbing with the meat of a walnut.
- Use a soft cloth and wipe with a bit of mayonnaise.
- Rub furniture with a cloth dipped in cool tea.
- Mix 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice. Apply mixture to furniture with a soft cloth and wipe it dry.
- To remove water stains on wood furniture, dab white toothpaste onto stain. Allow the paste to dry and then gently buff off with a soft cloth.
- A pencil eraser removes heel marks from a floor.
- For greasy, no-wax floors:
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1/4 cup washing soda
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil-based liquid soap
- 2 gallons hot water
- Combine all ingredients, stirring well to dissolve the washing soda. Mop as usual.
- Use toothpaste to clean and brighten even your best silver. Use an old soft bristled toothbrush and warm water.
- Rub with a paste of baking soda and water.
- To magnetize tarnish away, soak silver in salted water in an aluminum container; then wipe clean.
- Soak in boiling water, baking soda, salt, and a piece of aluminum foil.
- When a quick dip for silverware is needed, prepare a solution of baking soda in tepid-cool water (l level teaspoon to a quart) and brush with a soft toothbrush.
- Mix equal parts salt and flour with a little vinegar, then rub.
- Rub with undiluted vinegar.
- Rub with lemon juice and salt, or hot vinegar and salt.
- Rub with a paste of baking soda and water.
Automotive Cleaners and Care
Windshield Wiper Frost Free Fluid
- Mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water and coat the car windows with this solution. This vinegar and water combination will keep windshields ice and frost-free.
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil based liquid soap, and hot water. Mix in pail. Wash your car on the lawn instead of your driveway to reduce runoff to the street or storm sewer.
- sponge with a piece of cotton dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Decals/Gummed Labels/Price Tag Remover
- Use vinegar.
- To remove non-slip appliqués and strips from bathtubs, saturate a cloth or sponge and squeeze hot vinegar over decals.
- Vinegar also removes stick-on hooks from painted walls. Saturate a cloth or sponge with vinegar and squeeze the liquid behind the hook so that the vinegar comes in contact with the adhesive.
- In addition, vinegar can be used to remove price labels and other decals from glass, wood, and china. Paint the label or decal with several coats of white vinegar. Give the vinegar time to soak in and after several minutes the decal can be rubbed off.
(NOTE: Use these methods only on washable surfaces and washable paint)
- Use lemon juice, vinegar, or sprinkle with borax and scrub with scrub brush.
- 1/2 tsp. washing soda, 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 3 tbsp. vinegar, and 2 cups hot water. Mix in spray bottle, spray and scrub, wipe clean.
- Soften hard paintbrushes in hot vinegar for a few minutes. Then wash paintbrush in soap and warm water and let dry.
- To remove rust from tin-ware, rub with a peeled potato dipped in a mild abrasive such as baking soda or salt.
- Aluminum Foil. Briskly scrub rust spots on car bumpers with a piece of crumpled aluminum foil, shiny side up.
- Cold Pressed Nut Oil, Olive Oil, Walnut Oil, or Beeswax: Apply oil/wax to leather then buff with a chamois cloth to a shine.
- Lemon Juice. Good for black or tan leather shoes. Follow by buffing with a soft cloth.
- Vinegar. Remove water stains on leather by rubbing with a cloth dipped in a vinegar and water solution.
- Petroleum Jelly. A dab of petroleum jelly rubbed into patent leather gives a glistening shine and prevents cracking in the winter.
- Art-Gum Eraser and Sandpaper or Emery Board: dirt marks on suede can be rubbed out with an art-gum eraser. Then buff very lightly with an emery board.
Stain and Spot Removers
- Concrete Grease Spot Remover: To remove grease from concrete flooring sprinkle dry cement over grease. Allow it to absorb the grease, then sweep up.
- Use a non-aerosol hair spray to remove ink stains.
- Food grade linseed oil. Wet rag with linseed oil and rub hard.
- 1 tsp. to 1/4 cup washing soda, and 1 cup boiling water. Dissolve the washing soda in the boiling water. Apply with sponge, wipe off with a damp cloth.
- Roll up a piece of white bread and use it to “erase” marks on wallpaper
Fleas and Ticks
- Wash pets with castile soap and water, dry thoroughly, apply an herbal rinse made by adding 1/2 cup fresh or dried rosemary to a quart of boiling water (steep for 20 minutes, strain and cool. Spray or sponge onto pets hair, massage into skin. Let air dry, do NOT towel dry as this removes the residue of the rosemary.
- Diatomaceous earth (pure silica): sprinkle around flours, cracks and crevices.
- Cucumber peels: set out on counter tops overnight to repel roaches.
- Use cedar chips, shredded newspapers, lavender flowers…moths don’t like the smell.
Is your home safe?
According to the US National Research Council, “no toxic information is available for more than 80% of the chemicals in everyday-use products. Less than 20% have been tested for acute effects and less than 10% have been tested for chronic, reproductive or mutagenic effects”. Most have not been tested for combined or accumulated effects, nor for their effects on unborn children.
Only 1% of toxins are required to be listed on labels. This is mainly because the products don’t make any claims about safety. Companies can also classify them as “trade secrets” to avoid listing them.
Chemical names are often disguised by using innocuous “trade names.” So even if the chemical is listed on the label, you may not recognize it for what it is.
A pregnant woman can also pass the toxins from common cleaners to their unborn child! Many contaminants such as dioxins and PCBs have an affinity for fatty tissue. During pregnancy, women mobilize their amassed stores of body fat to provide nourishment for their growing babies; the contaminants in the fat are then passed to their children. Nursing mothers also transfer a good portion of their lifetime accumulation of chemicals to their babies.
Detergents, degreasers, stain removers and pesticides have made our homes miniature chemical factories. Hazardous chemicals endanger the environment by contaminating our groundwater, lakes and oceans. If these hazardous products in the home are ingested, absorbed through the skin or inhaled they can cause illness that may only appear years later.
- Of the 17,000 chemicals that appear in common household products, only 30% have been adequately tested for the negative effects on our health.
- Airborne chemical levels in homes are as much as 70 times higher inside than outside.
- Medical doctors and scientists have studied, analyzed, evaluated, and concluded that there is a definitive connection between our health and the use of everyday common household cleaning chemicals.
- Childhood asthma has nearly doubled in the last 20 years and some cleaners may be triggers to asthma attacks.
- One million poisonings in Canada each year are due to household cleaner ingestion. Some are fatal.
- Thousands of children and adults are permanently disfigured or injured through contact with chemicals in the home each year.
- Our pets are also at risk. Animals like to drink out of toilet bowls, puddles and gutters which all have been exposed to chemicals.
- Of all the chemicals found in our homes, 150 have been linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer and psychological abnormalities as well as increased learning disabilities.
- After injuries, cancer is the leading cause of death in children age 5 to 9 years. There has been a 26% increase in cancer over the last 2 decades!
- Cleaning products release toxic vapors into the air. Children are more vulnerable as they inhale more air per pound of body weight than adults and because pollutants are heavier than air and collect closer to the floor, small children breathe greater concentrations than adults.
- Indoor air pollution is a suspected culprit in infant death syndrome (SIDS). It is higher during the winter because of decreased ventilation.
- The average home today contains 62 toxic chemicals – more than a chemistry lab at the turn of the century.
- More than 72,000 synthetic chemicals have been produced since WW II.
- Less than 2% of synthetic chemicals have been tested for toxicity, mutagenic, carcinogenic, or birth defects.
- An EPA survey concluded that indoor air was 3 to 70 times more polluted than outdoor air.
- Another EPA study stated that the toxic chemicals in household cleaners are 3 times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor air.
- CMHC reports that houses today are so energy efficient that “outgassing” of chemicals has no where to go, so it builds up inside the home.
- We spend 90% of our time indoors, and 65% of our time at home. Moms, infants and the elderly spend 90% of their time in the home.
- National Cancer Association released results of a 15 year study concluding that women who work in the home are at a 54% higher risk of developing cancer than women who work outside the home.
- Cancer is the Number ONE cause of death for children and the Number ONE killer of women between the ages of 35 and 54.
- There has been a call from the U.S./Canadian Commission to ban bleach in North America. Bleach is being linked to the rising rates of breast cancer in women, reproductive problems in men and learning and behavioral problems in children.
- There are more than 3 million poisonings every year. Household cleaners are the Number ONE cause of poisoning of children.
- Since 1980, asthma has increased by 600%. The Canadian Lung Association and the Asthma Society of Canada identify common household cleaners and cosmetics as triggers.
- Formaldehyde, phenol, benzene, toluene, xylene are found in common household cleaners, cosmetics, beverages, fabrics and cigarette smoke. These chemicals are cancer causing and toxic to the immune system.
Dirty Details about some things around your house
We are simply letting you know the dangers associated with these products in case you are unaware.
- These interfere with your ability to smell by releasing nerve-deadening agents or coating nasal passages with an oil film, usually methoxychlor, a pesticide that accumulates in fat cells and over-stimulates the central nervous system.
- A very volatile chemical and is very damaging to your eyes, respiratory tract and skin.
- Bleach is a strong corrosive.
- It will irritate or burn the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. It may cause pulmonary edema or vomiting and coma if ingested.
- Never mix bleach with acid toilet bowl cleaners or ammonia.
- These mixtures may produce fumes which can be DEADLY.
- Carpet And Upholstery Shampoo
- Most formulas are designed to over power the stain itself; they accomplish the task but not without using highly toxic substances.
- Some include perchlorethylene, a known carcinogen that damages liver, kidney and nervous system damage; and ammonium hydroxide, a corrosive, extremely irritable to eyes, skin and respiratory passages.
- The first agent of chemical warfare was chlorine. WWII ended with an abundance of this cheap chemical.
- In the name of huge profits, it was added to our water supply and many other products.
- Chlorine is the number one cause of breast cancer and can be lethal.
- Scientists won’t handle chlorine without protective gloves, facemasks, and ventilation, yet it is in most store-brand cleaners, including dishwasher detergents.
- The harmful effects are intensified when the fumes are heated, as in the shower.
- It is in our drinking water, swimming pools, Jacuzzis, and more.
- Most of these products contain chlorine in a dry form that is highly concentrated.
- The number one cause of household poisoning is dish detergent.
- Dishwashing liquids are labelled “harmful if swallowed.”
- Each time you wash your dishes, some residue is left on them, which accumulates with each washing.
- Your food picks up part of the residue — especially if your meal is hot when you eat it.
- These usually contain petroleum distillates, which are highly flammable and can cause skin and lung cancer. They may also contain nitrobenzene, which is easily absorbed through the skin and extremely toxic.
General Household Cleaners
- Formaldehyde, phenol, benzene and toluene are found in common household cleaners and all have been linked as cancer causing and toxic to the immune system.
- Most household cleaners contain toxic chemicals.
- Ammonia is in almost all of them and is lethal if combined with bleach (forming chloramine).
- Triclosan, a commonly used anti-bacterial ingredient in products like hand lotion and dish detergent, is listed as a most hazardous pesticide by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Laundry Room Products
- Laundry detergents contain phosphorus, enzymes, ammonia, naphthalene, phenol, sodium nitilotriacetate and countless other chemicals.
- These substances can cause rashes, itches, allergies, sinus problems and more.
- The residue left on your clothes, bed sheets, etc. is absorbed through your skin, as is everything else you touch.
- The National Cancer Institute has stated that mouthwashes with 25% or higher concentration of alcohol increase your risk of oral and throat cancer.
- Dibutyl phthalate, a known hormone disruptor and an ingredient in nail polish, has shown up in pregnant American women in damaging concentrations.
- This is one of the most toxic products people use.
- They contain lye and ammonia, which eat the skin, and the fumes linger and affect the respiratory system.
- Then there is the residue that is intensified the next time you turn your oven on.
- Use sea salt and baking soda instead.
Toilet Bowl Cleaners
- These usually contain hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive irritant to both skin and eyes that damages kidneys and liver; and hypochlorite bleach, a corrosive irritant that can burn eyes, skin and respiratory tract.
- Toilet bowl cleaners also may cause pulmonary edema, vomiting or coma if ingested.
- Contact with other chemicals may cause chlorine fumes which may be fatal.
- Sodium Lauryl sulfate, a common ingredient in toothpaste, contributes to mouth ulcers.